And [Christ] gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.
It’s tempting to approach church like a spiritual co-op. By that I mean, it’s tempting to say, “let’s all pool our resources and build one building, set aside one day, and hire one person for ‘God stuff.'” Farmers make sure our nutritional needs are met, police make sure our safety needs are met–“you make sure our spiritual needs are met.” Pastor and seminary types call this approach “clericalism”: Set aside a few clerics, and they’ll take care of the spiritual stuff.
The problem is, the clerical paradigm doesn’t enable The Church to be what it’s meant to be. Consider the verse above. Christ gave all these leaders “to equip the saints for the work of ministry.” “The saints” are simply…well, if you’re one of God’s people, then the saints are you.
The clerical paradigm is like an owner of a professional baseball team saying, “Hire a good coach and he can take care of the ‘baseball stuff.'” Well, no. The coach is important, but the players play the game. Everyone does “baseball stuff,” but the players do the most exciting and pivotal “baseball stuff.” Coaches are a gift to the team because they can help everyone play better (maybe the best analogy is the old player/coach, because the pastors are definitely responsible to be Christians, too), but the team will only succeed when everyone realizes that even the best coaching is just coaching–the playing is the point.
Your church needs you because what happens through you is the point. God gave the church leaders to equip you for the work of ministry. Consider the way Elaine Graham puts it in Transforming Practice:
Despite its earlier dominance by clerical and therapeutic paradigms, pastoral theology has the potential to retrieve alternative strands from its tradition which enable it to give a critical account of the life of the Christian community as a whole. Such a perspective offers a renewed emphasis on the purposeful activities of the faith-community as the performative expressions of Christian truth-claims in a plural society.
-Elaine Graham, Transforming Practice, p.3
Pastors are great gifts to The Church from The Church’s great Head, Jesus Christ. However, you are too. Only you can be the Christ-filled version of you where you are. Only you can be the Christ-like version of you for the people for whom you’re responsible. Only you can be the Christ-following version of you before the decisions you make each day.
Yes, pastors are here to help equip you to do it, but the purpose of church is not to hire a couple people to represent the co-op and put on a good event. The purpose of church is the “building up of the body of Christ,” in fact, “in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (v.15). Your church needs you because Jesus Christ has chosen to make you part of The Church, and He is not only building you up to be like He is but also to do what He is doing. The work of ministry, the exciting and pivotal stuff, happens through you.